WHEELING - Four local men were honored with the prestigious Legion of Honor award from The Chapel of Four Chaplains during a ceremony Saturday morning at the Upper Ohio Valley Italian Heritage Festival in Wheeling.
During the ceremony at Heritage Port honoring veterans as part of the festival, Jim Lee of Wellsburg, John Looney and Pat Duffy of Wheeling and Harry "David" Schoenian of Glen Dale, were presented the awards by John Nanny, commandant of the Marine Corps League Department of West Virginia, with assistance from U.S. Rep. David McKinley, R-Wheeling. Nanny had nominated the men for the award.
The national Legion of Honor is given to citizens who impart the principles of selfless service to humanity in a manner that honored the legacy of the four World War II chaplains for which the honor is named. During the war, four U.S. Army chaplains of various faiths serving on the U.S.A.T. Dorchester, ministered to the wounded and dying soldiers when the ship was struck by enemy fire. Survivors recounted how the chaplains selflessly gave up their life jackets to troops and then perished in the frigid waters of the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Greenland.
Lee, who served as the guest speaker for Saturday's ceremony, is a highly decorated veteran of the U.S. Army having served in Vietnam. He was awarded a Silver Star, two Bronze Stars and five Purple Hearts. He recently retired as Chief Probation Officer for the First Judicial Circuit Court of West Virginia. He continues to train young people as an adjunct professor of criminal justice. Nanny described him as a genuine patriot.
Looney, also a U.S. Army combat veteran of the Vietnam War, serves as team leader of the VA Outreach Center in Wheeling. He has been active as a social worker with youth groups as well. Nanny said he was recognized for his long term contribution and unselfish dedication to military and civic activities.
Schoenian, a U.S. Army combat veteran having served in Vietnam, is very active in the Military Order of the Purple Heart. He participates in all POW/MIA programs locally and reaches out to veterans and their families. Nanny described Schoenian as, "a fine Christian soldier who makes everyone feel like they are in good hands."
Duffy, who chairs the patriotism committee for the Wheeling Elks Lodge 28, provides patriotic programs to area schools and organizations.
He has been active in the presentation of the Medal of Valor to Gold Star families and takes part at all civic functions. Although Duffy has not served in the military, Nanny said, "He is one of the most patriotic men I have ever met."
Nanny said all four men are deserving of the Legion of Honor award for their unique contributions to helping veterans and for their community service.
"I am so proud of these guys. I was glad to nominate them," Nanny said.
In 1951, the Chapel of the Four Chaplains, an interfaith chapel, was dedicated in Philadelphia. The names of the four local men will be included in the inscriptions there.